As Cambodian people are returning from P'Chum Ben, they might have fulfilled their traditional obligation to appease the ghosts of their ancestors who have been roaming different pagodas in search of food offered by their living relatives during the two-week-long festival.
However, probably very few people apart from the Buddhist monks and lay people have been able to please the gods by fully following the panca-sila, or the Five Precepts, they have repeatedly chanted during the ceremonies.
The panca-sila, or the Five Precepts in Buddhism, include:
1. Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami (I undertake the precept to refrain from destroying living creatures).
2. Adinnadana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami (I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given).
3. Kamesu micchacara veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami (I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct).
4. Musavada veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami (I undertake the precept to refrain from incorrect speech).
5. Suramerayamajja pamadatthana veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami (I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicating drinks and drugs that lead to carelessness).
Since at least the Khmer Rouge period, most Cambodians have committed sins by breaching some or all the Five Precepts in Buddhism.
Undoubtedly, the Khmer Rouge had committed the most severe sins by committing genocide on their own people. Some people have continued to repeat the Khmer Rouge's sin by killing other fellow Cambodians over malice, political conflicts, robbery or land disputes.
Many Cambodians have also breached the second precept by stealing other people's property and money in the forms of theft or corruption, while others have committed the more serious sin of sexual misconduct. Despite the recently passed adultery law, some people, particularly officials and rich businessmen, have continued to have fun with their mistresses who are other people's wives or daughters.
More or less, all people have committed another sin under the fourth precept of refraining from incorrect speech. Politicians have broken the swearing-in oaths and their promises with voters; some journalists have misquoted their sources; some judges have given unjust rulings by telling lies; while other ordinary Cambodians have committed this sin in various ways.
Last but not least, some Cambodians have committed another serious sin under the fifth precept by drinking alcohol or taking drugs.
As Buddhists, Cambodians should try to restore their religious morale by following the teachings of Buddha, particularly the panca-sila, or the Five Precepts.
Cambodia will have a peaceful and harmonious society if we can follow the Five Buddhist Precepts that are the basis of the rule of law.
Moeun Chhean Nariddh